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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 27, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EST

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there -- i should say there are few measures that come before the senate or the house that enjoy that kind of bipartisan support. in the senate, for example, there's no more than five bills that enjoy the support of 63 or more senators. so we're happy about that, but it's not -- we're not done yet. we still have a long, long way to go to get this legislation done. so as important as it is to highlight the numbers, it's also important to highlight the people that did the hard work to get us there. i'd like to be able to commend members of the house and the senate, but the ones who are worthy of even more substantial commendation would be a lot of individuals, some of whom are here in washington this week. the national downs syndrome society -- i was just with folks from the national downs syndrome
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society this morning over on the house side. they allowed a senator to go across on the house side. the presiding officer knows, she served there. once in a while we get to go over there. they were kind enough to invite us over there this morning. they did remarkable work on this legislation and are continuing their advocacy today even as we speak, and we are grateful for their -- for their work. autism speaks is another great organization that's done enormous work to bring us to where we are today. and the arc as well. a lot of americans know about the arc, the national downs syndrome society as well as autism speaks. so we're grateful for their support but we still have a ways to go. one of the best ways to ensure that this legislation will get over the goal line -- we don't want to use too many football analogies here, but if we're -- if we're getting close, even if we're in the so-called red zone, we're not in the end zone yet.
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we have a ways to go. but one of the best ways to make sure that that happens is to talk about the real people that legislation like this would affect. we mention the -- the number of supporters we have. what i didn't mention was the full name of the bill. achieving a better life experience. that's the acronym able. but i like to think about it in this way as well. i have a constituent sara wolfe who was with us today. she knows that the rules don't allow me to indicate where she is today, but she is very close -- she is very close by, and she is with us today, and i'm grateful that she is with us because sara is a great example of someone who has a disability but is very able, has a disability but on a regular basis, hour after hour, day after day. finds a way to overcome her disability, to manage it as best she can.
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she is a remarkable speaker. she gives as many speeches as i give in a week and she is an elected official. i live in scranton, she lives in moscow. she works for a law office as a law clerk. but as smart as she is on the law and these issues, probably the most significant part of her -- her whole personality is the dynamism that she brings to issues. she is a dynamic person. she does something that few of us do well, even people that work here as elected officials. she knows how to engage with people. she knows how to deliver a message. she knows how to be candid and direct but to do it in a way that's engaging and warm and friendly. so i take a lot of -- once in a while i will take instruction from sara wolfe, but even more
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than that i take inspiration from her. she is someone who is very able and talented and committed, but she is among the many americans, pennsylvanians in my case, asking us to pass this legislation so that if -- if a family like hers wants to begin to save to help pay for a whole range of services for an individual with a disability, that they can do that in a tax-free -- i should say a tax-advantaged environment and so they can save over time and do it in a manner that doesn't put them at a disadvantage from a tax standpoint down the road. so sara is a great example of why the able act should pass, and she is doing more than her share to make sure that it does pass, so i'm grateful to sara
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wolfe for doing that. especially grateful to people like sara who like a lot of us at some point in our lives have to overcome the tragedy. sara lost her mother connie not too long ago to a sudden and rapid illness, but she has been able to -- to deal with that tragedy and still help us day in and day out to get the able act passed. i will highlight one more story and then i will conclude. angie king is a 28-year-old who lives in indianapolis, indiana, and like sara wolfe, she lives with downs syndrome. she has had -- angie has had five different jobs and works five days a week. she works paid positions at kohl's on mondays and at the ymca on fridays. on tuesdays, wednesdays and thursdays, she volunteers for several organizations, including a hospital, a downs syndrome office in indiana and the
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alzheimer's unit of an assisted living facility. unfortunately, like so many disabled -- americans with disabilities, angie is unable to save enough to cover her future needs. the same problem i just highlighted if we don't change the law with the able act. under current law, she must have less than $2,000 in assets in order to be eligible for supplemental security income. that doesn't make a lot of sense, and that's one of the reasons we have to change the law. angie is therefore forced to limit the amount of money that she earns and work multiple paid and volunteer positions in order to benefit from the steady benefits that s.s.i. provides. angie would like to live independently and at the same time know that she has
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limitations in that regard, because without adequate savings and income, because of the current state of the law, she is forced to live with her family. she would like to be independent. that's -- that's something we all yearn for at some point in our lives. angie's family is worried about her living in financial situations, especially down the line years from now when the family may not -- may not be with her any longer. so stories like angie cain's story, the story of sara wolfe and individuals across the country like sara and like angie are the reason we have got to pass the able act. they don't need a lot of help. they need just a tool, one tool in their toolbox to be able to reach down and have an
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opportunity to have their families saved in a way that will help them down the road. the centers for disease control and prevention estimate that 19% of americans live with one or more disabilities. 12% live with severe disabilities. many of them are unsure about their ability to cover their basic expenses in the future because they are unable to build adequate savings. you know, we talk a lot about folks that -- that should save. we encourage them to save for college. we encourage families to do that. we encourage people to save for all kinds of things. just the -- just the principle itself, to save and to conserve is a good one to -- to espouse and to advocate for. but we have got to give in this instance families an opportunity to save for a loved one with a
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disability or in some cases more than one disability. so whether it's sara wolfe or angie or others, we have got to give them -- give them an opportunity to do that, give their families that opportunity. when you see that number of members of congress, 400 coming together, i believe it's not just -- not simply a question of whether this will pass. it's only a question of when the able act will pass in the next couple of months we hope and whether or not we will get every single member of the united states senate and the house to join us in this. it's one major thing we could do this year is show the american people that we get it when it comes to one challenge that a lot of families face. with that, madam president, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. a senator: i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: thank you. i come to the floor today, madam president, as a cosponsor of the legislation that's being considered now in the senate,
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the health and benefits act for veterans of 2014. the package of reforms included in this bill will help provide our nation's veterans to whom we owe so much more job opportunities, greater health care access, improved educational programs and increased oversight of the disability claims backlog, which is a real challenge that so many of our veterans are facing. i want to thank the leadership of senator sanders who chairs the senate veterans' committee, veterans' affairs committee. this bill includes provisions that have been sponsored by both republicans and democrats here in the senate, which is why more than 20 veteran service organizations have endorsed the legislation, including the american legion, veterans of foreign wars, the disabled american veterans and the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america. as the heroes of the wars in iraq and afghanistan returned home, they deserve our utmost gratitude and appreciation. many of our returning veterans
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served multiple tours of duty, sacrificing so much to protect this nation. they deserve nothing less than access to the best health care, the best education and the best opportunities for employment. medical care for injured service members is at the heart of the v.a.'s mission. we have a basic responsibility to care for the men and women injured while protecting this country. this legislation addresses one of the most common requests from our veterans, expanded access to the v.a.'s dental care program. i was meeting with some folks recently who told me that one of the biggest reasons our veterans are serving -- our men and women serving in the military on active duty are not able to be deployed overseas is because they don't have some of the basic dental care that they need. anyone who suffered from dental issues know that it can be
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completely debilitating. so simply put, veterans should not have to suffer because of a lack of capacity to support this basic medical need. the bill also contains provisions that will help expand treatment options for young men and women, who have sustained major injuries that may prevent them from starting a family. starting a family is one of the most rewarding joys of life, and we should do everything possible to make sure that our military men and women are able to overcome any reproductive challenges that they may face. access to mental health care and counseling, both for our returning service men and women and their families, is also critically important. when our brave heroes deal with these kinds of health issues, their families are also affected. this legislation would expand mental health resources available to veterans and their family members. now, one of the most significant
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reforms that is included in this legislation is moving the entire department of veteran affairs to an advanced appropriation cycle. this means that congress would pay the v.a.'s bills one year in advance, making it absolutely certain that there will be no gaps in funding for veterans' programs. several years ago, congress moved the veterans' health administration to a one-year advanced appropriation. the intent was to provide increased budget certainty and protection for the hospitals, community clinics and other health care providers taking care of our wounded veterans. by funding the veterans' health administration in advance, congress made sure that budget delays would no longer affect veterans' health care. but the rest of the department of veterans' affairs, including the veterans benefits administration, does not receive that advanced appropriation. so that means that during last
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year's government shutdown, veterans were at risk of not receiving their disability payments and some personnel involved in decreasing the disability claims backlog were not working. well, veterans should not have to wait longer or be put at risk of losing their benefits because of political disagreements here in congress. this bill will ensure that that would not happen again in the future. as i have talked to new hampshire veterans over the last year, this advanced appropriation process has consistently been one of their top requests, and i'm very glad to see that it's included. the bill also takes important steps to help create job opportunities for veterans. it reauthorizes parts of the vow to hire heroes act, including a joint program between the v.a.
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and the department of labor that provides 12 months of training for high demand occupations to unemployed veterans. so far this program has provided retraining benefits to more than 50,000 eligible veterans. the legislation also includes programs that help veterans train for new careers and identify and apply for existing job openings. it would award grants for hiring veterans as first responders and it would cut red tape for veterans seeking licenses for skills they've developed during their military service. we should do all we can to get our veterans in the work force. there are far too many veterans, particularly post-9/11 vepts, who have not -- vets, who have not been able to get jobs and are experiencing so many of the fortunate consequences of being out of the work force. that's why i filed amendments to this bill that will create new
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tax incentives for businesses to hire veterans, that would make it more affordable and easier for veteran-owned small businesses to participate in small business administration loan programs. and i've also filed amendments to address the backlog at the board of veteran appeals, one of the really unfortunate situations that we have for our veterans. we have veterans in new hampshire who have been waiting up to four years to have their appeals heard before the board. and finally, madam president, another member -- amendment that i filed to the bill is in memory of my friend, charley morgan. charley was a member of the new hampshire national guard, the 197th fires brigade. after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," she became one of the first service members in the country to come forward and talk about the challenges of keeping her family and her private life
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secret while she had served in the military. what also prompted charli to come forward was in addition to those challenges, she was also dealing with breast cancer. sadly, we lost charli last year to breast cancer. she was just 48 years old. i met charli while she was serving as a chief warrant officer in the new hampshire guard, but she had enlisted in the army in 1982 and after serving on active duty, charli joined the kentucky national guard because that's that's where she was living in 1992 when she joined, but shortly after the 9/11 attacks, she joined the 197th fires brigade of the new hampshire national guard. now, i've said it before and i will say it again today, that there is a very special place in this nation's history for those who step forward to defend the country and protect the very
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same freedoms that are denied to them out of uniform. charli morgan never gave up the fight for her civil rights, and neither will we. my amendment is cosponsored by senators mark udall, blumenthal, and gillibrand, and the presiding officer is a cosponsor. it ensures that all veterans and their families no matter where they live, no matter their sexual orientation, get the benefits they have earned by putting their lives on the line for our country. my bill passed the veterans committee last july by a voice vote. i hope first of all that we will get an amendment process on this veterans bill that allows me and so many of my colleagues to offer relevant amendments that i think would improve the bill that we are hoping to consider, and i hope that my colleagues will support all of my
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amendments but particularly this important charli morgan amendment because our veterans deserve nothing less. so thank you very much, madam president. i yield the floor. madam president, i have 11 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. have the approval of the majority and minority leaders and i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: thank you, madam president. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. hoeven: madam president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: yes, we are. mr. hoeven: i ask that the quorum call be suspended. i rise today to talk about the iran sanctions legislation. first i want to talk about the veterans legislation that we're on, but also why it's so important that we include the iran sanctions provision. i believe that we all want to make sure that we take care of our veterans, and we have on the floor two bills today that deal with our veterans, one offered by senator sanders of vermont and another one offered by senator richard burr of north carolina. and i'm asking that the majority leader allow an open process so that we can craft a good bill for our veterans. that means allowing amendments.
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that means allowing a vote on both bills. and i believe that with an open process, with an open amendment process by allowing votes as i've described, that we can, in fact, build the kind of bipartisan support to -- the kind of bipartisan consensus that we need to, in fact, pass this legislation. and there are provisions in the bills that i think have broad bipartisan support. that's why it's so open that we have this open -- why it's so important we have this open process. now, one such provision that can help us build that kind of bipartisan support is the iran sanctions provision in the legislation. it's sponsored by democrats senator bob menendez of new jersey and also republican senator mark kirk of illinois. and it's cosponsored by 57 other
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senators. including myself. so we're talking about a piece of legislation within the burr bill that has 59 senators cosponsoring the legislation. so if that legislation is put on the floor, included as part of the burr bill, it's pretty much guaranteed that we can pass it. it's got 59 cosponsors. we pick up one more vote, and we pass the bill. that's good for our veterans and it's also very important for our national security. so let me talk about the iran sanctions provision for just a minute. right now, the obama administration is trying to negotiate an agreement with iran to prevent iran from developing a nuclear weapon. and while the administration is
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negotiating, iran continues to develop its nuclear weapon. while president obama, secretary of state kerry negotiate with their -- with president hassan rouhani, iran continues to build a nuclear bomb while the administration and our secretary of state talk about our allies in europe about the negotiations with iran, the supreme leader in iran continue to build a nuclear bomb. the reality is the only thing that has brought iran to the negotiating table is sanctions. and only continuing those sanctions will get them to stop building a bomb. the sanctions should be reinstated, and they should not be lifted until, one, iran agrees that they will not build a bomb, and we have an open,
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verifiable, transparent process to make certain that they're not doing it. now, sanctions take time to work. the sanctions that we applied more than a year ago, particularly the kirk-menendez banking sanctions, have had a real impact on iran's economy. i bring a background as a banker to my work experience, both the work experience i had as a governor for ten years and my work experience here in the senate. and the reality is that the kirk-menendez banking sanctions have been extremely effective. it's a well-crafted piece of legislation, passed this body overwhelmingly, bipartisan legislation, that is really effective. and the reason it's so effective is because it prevents any country, any company that wants to do business with the united states banking system -- and
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companies worldwide have to be able to transact with the u.s. banking system, but they are not allowed to transact with our banking system if they also do business with iran. if iran can't sell its oil because they can't get paid for its oil, they are in a very tough situation. not only then do they not have the resources, do they not have the funds to build a bomb, their administration -- the regime -- does not have the money to operate their country. so you not only prevent them from building a bomb by denying them resources from the sale of oil, because they can get paid for the sale of oil, we not only prevent them from building a bomb but we put the regime itself at risk if they continue to build a bomb. that is why the kirk-menendez sanctions, those banking sanctions have been so effective. but they work over time. they work over time. and when you lift them, the relief is immediate. the relief is immediate because
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now iran can sell that oil. they can get payment for that oil. they can get payment for other things. they can purchase what they need not only to continue to build a bomb but to keep their country going, to keep the regime in power. so it's very important when we're talking about sanctions, when we're talking about negotiating an agreement to get them to stop building a bomb and getting a process that is open, transparent and verifiable that they in fact have stopped building a bomb, dismantling their nuclear weapons enterprise, it is very important to understand that sanctions work over time. but when lifted, the relief is immediate. and that's why we cannot lift sanctions while we negotiate the agreement and get iran to stop. we have to get them to stop first and give us a process to verify that in fact they have stopped before we can lift those sanctions. we have the opportunity in this body. we have the opportunity in this body right here, right now,
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today to address that problem. it's incredibly important that we do. we have 59 sponsors on the legislation. we're one short. and if you put it for a vote, we will have well more than 60 votes. and we impose those sanctions now. we tell iran, you stop. and we make they stop. that's the option before us today. that's what we need to do. if we don't do it, what are our options? a military strike? that's the last option. that's what we don't want to have to do, a military strike to take out their bombmaking capability. but if we don't act, if we don't reimpose those sanctions, that's the option that's left. so today we have a choice. today we have a choice.
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and i ask that we be allowed to vote, that we be allowed to vote on the burr legislation, that we be allowed to vote on amendments, and that we be allowed to vote to reimpose sanctions on iran. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent that following disposition of s. 1982 the veterans bill, the senate proceed to executive session to consider calendar number 561, michael connor to be deputy secretary of interior, two minutes for debate equally divided in the usual form. all other provisions in the previous order remain in effect. the presiding officer: without objection.
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. a senator: in montana we have a long history of being represented by two statesmen. larger than life figures like senator mark mansfield. . these men always served us well. these statesmen never took their privileges for granted and always had the preufts to put their differences aside to do dos right for our country -- to do what's right for our country. i pledge to do what's right. mr. walsh: senator mansfield called butte home. born and raised in butte, i was brought up with a great deal of
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respect for senator mike mansfield. it is a tremendous honor for me to stand today where he stood so many years ago and pledge to you and the people of montana that i will take responsibility for my actions and that i will have the courage to do what's right no matter what the consequences. of course i wouldn't be where i am today without the love and support of my wonderful family. my wife janet who is in the audience today, of 29 years; our sons michael and taylor; our daughter-in-law april; and our nine-month-old granddaughter kennedy. they have stood by my side through every challenge life has handed us. last week while at home traveling across montana, as montana's newest senator, i had the opportunity to talk with a lot of montanaans who believe we need more courage in washington, and i tend to agree. as a public servant, i've sworn to an oath to protect and defend
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montanans, our nation and our constitution. i am no stranger to answering the call to serve. i spent 33 years in the montana national guard where i served for nine of those years as an enlisted man before becoming an officer. i also had the honor of leading over 700 of montana's finest men and women into combat in iraq. it was the largest deployment of montana's soldiers or airmen since world war ii. and then in august of 2008 governor brian web schweitzer ad me to serve as the adjutant general in the national guard. i'm proud of my oldest son michael who is now 28 and is following in my path of public service. he is currently serving in the national guard and is deployed in the middle east as a c-12 pilot and blackhawk medevac pilot. throughout my many years of
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service, and now with my son's service, ensuring our veterans and their families have access to the services and benefits they've earned is a responsibility i take very seriously and very personally. i recently met with student veterans at montana state university in boseman, montana where i heard from a young man and women who are concerned about their mounting student debt. i've also heard from veterans from all across montana about their frustrations with the long delays in processing disability benefit claims. and i have heard from veterans from across the state who are frustrated with the distances that they have to travel to receive care. these failings on behalf of our veterans and their families cause me grave concern. we must, and i will, fight for them every day that i am serving in the united states senate. the face of modern war has changed and the v.a. must keep
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up with the changing times. medical care must include robust mental health benefits and it must also include proper screenings to help mitigate the effects of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. as a military commander, i also know firsthand what the unseen injuries have done to america's heroes and their families. we can and we must do better. the oath i have taken is one i take very seriously. it is an honor, it is a privilege and a great responsibility that i will work tirelessly to fulfill. to honor their service and sacrifice, we must welcome our heroes home and help them during their transition from active duty back into civilian life. i know how difficult that transition can be. i've experienced it firsthand. i've witnessed it. and i will take responsibility to improve it.
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on these and other issues facing our state and our country, i look forward to working with my friend and colleague, senator jon tester, to solve problems not only for our veterans but for all montanans. last week jon and i traveled the state. we heard from members of a tribal council about the importance of federal recognition and the ways to help indian-owned businesses grow and create more jobs. we heard from tribal nations across montana about the land buy-back cooperative agreement program within the department of interior. i made a commitment to montana's tribal leaders that i would work hard to make sure the federal government is being responsive and working to move this program forward in a way that works for our sovereign tribal nations. we also had the opportunity to speak with business owners in mile city and wolf point, montana, who are working hard to grow jobs while at the same time deal with infrastructure challenges caused by the oil boom in eastern montana.
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my job is to bring their voices to the united states senate. one additional issue that i heard loud and clear from every corner of montana is that our government is not doing enough to protect our civil liberties. as i have throughout my career, i will continue to fight to protect our civil liberties, our freedoms and our montana values. we must do what it takes to protect our nation and the freedom we enjoy, something i've dedicated my life to. but we must and we can do it without trampling on the rights we have fought so hard for. data collection with no transparency whether by the government or by private corporations is unacceptable. that's why during my first week in the senate i signed on to a bipartisan bill that is an important first step in this fight. i've also heard loud and clear from montanans that our national debt is unacceptable.
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washington has a spending problem that we must get under control. there is no better example of privileges gaining on our principles. responsibly cutting our debt and wasteful spending is one of my top priorities as a united states senator, just as it was as montana's lieutenant governor working alongside governor steve bullock. congress needs the courage to stop spending without doing it on the backs of our children or our seniors. almost everyone i talk to in montana can tell me where they see waste in government. and they all have specific examples. we need to find the courage to stand up to special interests and cut that wasteful spending. but we must not do it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. having served for 33 years in the military, i'm confident we can make the defense budget more efficient while at the same time enhancing programs that grow our economy and protect our children and seniors.
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we should start by reducing waste in contracting and procurement. today we spend millions to have contract security, guards check i.d. at our bases rather than service members, but no one is any safer. i take responsibility to fix this. it is a privilege to be chosen to serve on the agriculture committee. i am the only member of montana's delegation to sit on the agriculture committee. this committee is so important to montana where our number-one industry is agriculture. from livestock disaster assistance to crop insurance, common sense forest reforms, i look forward to making sure the farm bill works and works efficiently from montana's farmerrers and ranchers. i also look forward to serving on the commerce committee where i will focus on transportation, energy, rural telecommunications and tourism. tourism is montana's second largest sector. it not only contributes to our
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state's economy but also helps preserve the outdoor heritage that makes montana such a slice of heaven. i will bring montana courage to the united states senate where i will fight on behalf of the people of montana to protect social security and medicare and in my new role on the aging committee, and i'm also prepared to help fix some of washington's problems while serving on the rules committee. i know i only just joined this distinguished body. but i also know there is real work to be done to get our country on the right track again. beginning on day one, i rolled up my sleeves and started working. my purpose here is to have the courage to do what's right for the people of montana, our veterans and the united states of america. thank you for this amazing opportunity, and may god bless the united states of america. thank you.
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i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call quorum: quorum call: mr. cornyn: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: madam president, i rise today to commemorate a very special day in texas history, and i would say in american history, a day that inspires pride and gratitude in my state. i rise to commemorate texas
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independence day, which is celebrated on march 2, this sunday. i want to read a letter that was written 178 years ago from behind the walls of an old spanish mission in, now in san antonio texas. it's known as the alamo, a letter written by 26-year-old lieutenant colonel william barret travis. in doing so, i'm carrying on a tradition started by the late senator john tower, who represented texas in this body for more than two decades. this tradition was later upheld by senator phil gra phil gramm d therefore senator kay bailey hutchison after him. and it is a tremendous honor that this privilege has now fallen to me. on february 24, 1836, with his position under siege and
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outnumbered nearly 10 to 1 by the forces of the mexican dictator antonio lopez de did he santa ana, "to the people of texas and all americans in the world, fellow senio senior citid patriots, i am besieged bi. i have sustained a continual bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours are and have not lost a man. the minute -- the enemy has demanded surrender at discretion. otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword before it is taken. i've answered the demand with a canon shot and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. i shall never surrender or retreat. then i call on you in the name
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of liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the american characteristic to come to our aid with all dispatch. the enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to 3,000 or 4,000 in four of or five days if this call is neglected, i am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is tiew t due to his own honor understand that o -- and at that of his country. victory or death. signinged william baer travis." as we have since learned, in the battle that ensued, all defenders of the alamo gave their lives but they did not die in vain u the battle of the alamo brought precious -- bought precious time for the texas revolutionaries following
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general sam houston to maneuver his army into position at the battle of san joe seine tow. texas became a sovereign nation and an independent republic. for nine years the republic of texas thrived, as i said, as a separate nation. then in 1845 it agreed to join the united states as the 28th state. many of the texas pay trouts who fought in the revolution went on to serve in the united states congress, and i'm honored to hold the seat originally held by then-general sam houston, but later president of the republic and united states senator for texas. more broadly, i'm honored to have the opportunity to serve 26 million americans that call texas home because of the sacrifices made by these brave patriots 178 years ago. may we always remember the alamo and may god continue to bless texas and these united states.
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madam president, i'd like to change subjects and spend the rest of my time on a separate topic about which many americans are greatly concerned, and i'm one of them. it's been more than nine months since we first found out that the i.r.s. was deliberately targeting certain political organizations for their political beliefs. at first the administration, the obama administration, acknowledged that any abuse by the i.r.s. was unacceptable. but then in subsequent days and months it has tried play down the scandal and blame it on a few rogue operators in the cincinnati field office. yet the more we have learned, the more we realize that the abuses involve significant coordination with the i.r.s. headquarters here in washington, d.c. because of these abuses,
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millions of americans now worry that the internal revenue service and their own federal government has been corrupted, and we've become more like a banana republic. this damage to the public confidence and public trust is immeasurable, and much of the damage may end up being irreversible. of course, the right response when the administration and when congress learned of these abuses would have been to clean house at the agency and give the american people ironclad assurances that this would never, ever happen again. and, of course, the right response would have been accountability, firing people, and strong support for congressional investigations on a bipartisan basis and adoptions against -- adoptions of new safeguards against potential future abuses. instead, we've seen that the
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investigations most notably led in the house of representatives have been met with whitewash, and there have been active efforts to prevent congress from actually uncovering the full story. that's a shameful response, and it's dishonest, and unfortunately bits to get worse -- it's about to get worse. the obama i.r.s. is now proposing a new political speech rule that would force many 501-c-4 or grass-roots organizations to dramatically change their activities or form formal political action committees. they'll be subject to new campaign finance rules which, of course, may be the whole point. as "the wall street journal" noted earlier this week, "the purpose of this disclosure is to set up donors as political targets for boycotts and
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intimidation so that the costs of participating in politics will be too steep." i might note, madam president, that the supreme court of the united states addressed this concern in a very important case decades ago, the naacp v. alabama, where they held that under the first amendment to the constitution, the naacp was not required to disclose its membership list, because at the time, sadly, they were worried about intimidation and targeting of their members. so the supreme court of the united states said that you under the first amendment to the constitution and the freedom of association included there that the naacp did not need to disclose its membership list because of this bonafide threat. well, these are not contrived concerns today. back in 2012 donors to the mitt romney presidential campaign
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found themselves publicly attacked and slandered for daring to support governor romney and participating in the political process. for that matter, something even more sinister happened to one idaho businessman by the name of frank vander sleut. he was one of eight romney donors condemned by an obama campaign web site and called -- quote -- "less than reputable." shortly thereafter, a democratic opposition researcher began searching into mr. vanderslute's divorce records. meanwhile with the i.r.s. decided to audit two years' worth of tax filings for mr. vanderslute and authorized a separate audit of the workers on his cattle ranch. coincidence?
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well, i suspect that mr. vanderis the lute was targeted because of his political activities. it was a deeply troubling question in 2012 and it is even more troubling today given all that we've learned about i.r.s. targeting since that time. and i would give as my next example the experience of one of my constituents, katherine engel brect in houston, texas. she is a businesswoman who founded both the king street patriots and an organization called true to vote. she was mainly concerned about the integrity of the ballot and training people to participate in the process and express themselves more effectively through that process. but she found herself targeted by multiple federal agencies, including the i.r.s., the f.b.i., the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, osha, none of which had ever contacted her family's businesses before,
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her involvement in grass-roots activism. as ms. engelbrecht recently told a house committee, "we have never been audited, we had never been investigated but all that change the pofn submitting applications for the nonprofit status for true the vote and king street patriots. since that filing, my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations and my family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies." make no mistake, the proposed i.r.s. rule would make it even harder for people like ms. engelbrech to participate in the political process, something that is her still right. and it strongly discourage other similarly interested and concerned citizens from exercising their rights. in other words, it would strike
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at the very heart of self-government and at the very heart of the american democracy. the i.r.s. was met to be a tax collection agency, period. not to be a police of political speech and political activity. but now we know, after the affordable care act was passed, now more commonly called obamacare, we know now the i.r.s. is in charge of enforcing obamacare by collecting the penalties for people who don't buy a government-approved health insurance. but still, that's apparently not enough of a job for the i.r.s., even though the work they're already doing they're not doing very well. with this new 501-c-4 riewcialg, the effect would become a campaign finance regulator. as the effects for this rule are
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aware, we already have an agency responsible for enforcing campaign finance rules. it's called, strangely enough, the federal election commission. and it's a strictly bipartisan institution, as it should be. if the president and my friends across the aisle wanted to change campaign finance laws, they should either draft legislation or make their case to the federal agency that has the jurisdiction to deal with it: the election commissioners at the federal election commission. but turning to the i.r.s. as a de facto arm of the f.e.c. is just more political overreach and is going to be ripe for abuse. indeed, not only would the proposed 501-c-4 rule further distract the i.r.s. from its core mission, it would trample
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the first amendment, intimidate people from exercising their rights to free speech, and it would weaken our participatory democracy. i also note, madam president, that the rule would not cover the political activities of some other tax-exempt organizations. now, i'm sure this was just an oversight. labor unions are exempted, so why, if the treasury is proposing this rule, why if this is going to be given to the i.r.s. would you carve out some of the largest donors and participants in the political process in america today, which is organized labor? well, not for reasons of fairness, i suppose. but, rather, because the proponents of this rule basically want to tilt the scale in their favor once again, and they want to suppress the speech and the political activity of people they disagree with, which is un-american.
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now, not surprise beingly surpre i.r.s. has received tens of thousands of comments on the rule and most of these comments have been critical. this morning in the senate judiciary, my colleague, senator cruz, read a comment from the american civil liberties union that was critical of this rule. now, i don't agree with lot of the policies of the american civil liberties union, but they're absolutely right tbh this instance, that given the tremendous importance of this issue, including the potential consequences and damage to first amendment rights, we need to make sure that this rule is not implemented as proposed. and i would urge all my constituents in texas and all americans and everyone within the sound of my voice to continue making their voices heard and to continue to urge president obama and the i.r.s. commissioner to stop this dangerous i.r.s. power grab. madam president, i yield the floor.
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i'd suggest the absence of a quorum. oh, i withdraw that request. : mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: as chairman of the senate veterans' committee, i want to thank many, many people for helping me bring
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forth the legislation that we're going to be voting on this afternoon. i want to thank those people who have come down to the floor to speak on behalf of our veterans, and that includes majority leader reid, who has been so helpful throughout. senators murray, blumenthal, durbin, merkley, walsh, shaheen. and casey. i suspect i have left out some. i want to thank my staff at the veterans' committee: steve robertson, dahlia mennend r*e z, elizabeth austin, carlos fuentes, jacob bean, shannon laffra and raphael anderson, for their help on this effort. i want to thank the 28 cosponsors of this important legislation. i won't read their names.
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they know who they are, and i thank them very, very much. mr. president, as i have indicated earlier, this legislation is not bernie sanders' legislation. this is legislation that by and large comes from the hearts and souls of the veterans of this country. as chairman of the committee, i thought it was my obligation to listen to what the veterans of america, the veterans of our country were saying about their problems and their needs and how we might go forward. and that's what i and others on the committee did. we listened. and that is the reason why this legislation is being supported by virtually every veterans organization in the united states of america representing millions and ph-pls -- millions of veterans. i want to thank for their
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support -- not only for their support but for their help in crafting this legislation, the american legion, the veterans of foreign wars, the disabled american veterans, the jewish war veterans, the vietnam veterans of america, the paralyzed veterans of america, the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, the wounded warrior project, gold star wives, student veterans of america, the air force sargeants association, the american ex-prisoners of war, the association of the united states navy, the commissioned officers association of u.s. public health service, the national guard association of the u.s., the enlisted association national guard of the u.s., the fleet reserve association, the marine corps league, the marine corps reserve association, the military officers of america association, the military order of the purple heart, the national association of uniformed services, the noncommissioned officers association, the retired enlisted association, the american military retirees
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association, the national coalition for homeless veterans, the national association for state veterans homes, and many, many other veterans organizations. thank you very much for your support for this legislation. mr. president, it is no secret that congress today is extremely partisan and to a significant degree dysfunctional. that is why the approval rating of congress is somewhere around 15%. problems facing the american people, and we can't address those problems. and the american people are profoundly disgusted with what we do, and in fact with what we do not do. and, mr. president, i had hoped from the bottom of my heart that at least on this issue, the need to protect and defend the veterans of ph country and
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families, those who have given so much to us that we could rise above the day-to-day rancor and the party politics that we see here on this floor almost every single day. we will in fact see within a short while whether or not we will rise to the occasion, whether we will in fact stand with the veterans of this country or whether once again we're going to succomb to the same old same old flakes we -- same old, same old politics that we see almost every day. mr. president, let me briefly touch upon some of the objections that my republican colleagues have made to this bill. some of them -- not a whole lot, by the way. but some have come to the floor
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and they've objected to this bill. so let me respond to some of their concerns. some of my republican colleagues have said that they can't vote for this bill because they couldn't get the opportunity to offer an amendment on the iran sanctions situation. well, mr. president, you know what? the issue of iran sanctions is an important issue, but it has nothing to do with the needs of veterans. in case people don't understand it, this is a comprehensive veterans bill. and while iran sanctions may be important, it has nothing to do with what we are discussing today. and that is not just my opinion. far more importantly, we have the opinion of the largest veterans organization in this country which represents over
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two million veterans, and that is the american legion. and here is what daniel amdellinger, the national commander of the american legion, said just yesterday on this issue. this is what he said -- and i quote -- "iran is a serious issue that congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to s. 19282 -- this veterans legislation -- which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of u.s. military servicemen and women home from war. this comprehensive bill aims to help veterans find good jobs, get the health care they need and make in-state tuition rates applicable to all who are using their g.i. bill benefits. this legislation is about supporting veterans, pure and simple. the senate can debate various aspects of it, and that's understandable, but it cannot
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lose focus on the matter at hand, helping military personnel make the transition to veteran life and ensuring that those who serve their nation in uniform receive the benefits they earn and they deserve. we can deal with iran or any other issue unrelated specifically to veterans with separate legislation. and that is mr. dellinger, the national commander of the largest veterans organization in this country. and i thank him very much because he's exactly right. and he reflects what the overwhelming majority of the american people believe. deal with the issue at hand. but it's not just the american legion. i want to thank the iraq-afghanistan veterans of america. they tweeted the other day -- and i quote -- "the senate should not get distracted while debating and voting on the vets bill, iran sanctions, obamacare, et cetera, aren't relevant to s. 1982." they are absolutely right.
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let's talk about veterans' needs. now, some other republican colleagues in objecting to this bill have said they can't vote for it because it is not bipartisan enough and it's not been fully marked up in committee. well, that's not quite true. almost all of the provisions in this bill did come out of the committee. in fact, two of the major components of this bill, two separate omnibus bills were passed by unanimous vote. you can't get much more bipartisan than when you have two major provisions in a bill passing with all republican and democrats voting for it. that's pretty bipartisan from where i come from. furthermore, this legislation contains a number of provisions offered and supported by republican members of the veterans' committee. in fact, to the best of my knowledge, there are 26 separate
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provisions that republican members have authored or cosponsored. mr. president, this legislation also includes two key provisions that were passed in a bipartisan way by the republican house of representatives. with almost unanimous votes, the house passed a provision that we have in this legislation that would authorize the v.a. to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and puerto rico. in other words, this was a new provision that i did add to this bill, was not discussed in committee, but in fact has overwhelming bipartisan support. and the second provision that we added to the bill not discussed in committee also passed the house with broad support, and that deals with the very important issue of ensuring that veterans can take full advantage
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of the post-9/11 g.i. bill and get in-state tuition in the state in which they currently live. so to as great a degree as possible, i have tried to make this bill a bipartisan bill, and that's where we are. now, other republicans have come to the floor, and they have objected to this bill because they argue that by expanding v.a. health care to veterans currently not eligible for it, veterans who in some cases are trying to get by on $28,000, $30,000 a year in this tough economy -- and it is true, we do expand v.a. health care to those veterans who don't have a whole lot of money -- they say, the republicans who object say that would open up the floodgates for
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millions or tens of millions -- i think somebody said 22 million veterans. every veteran in america would be eligible for v.a. health care, that the health care system would be swamped and health care, especially for those most in need, would deteriorate because so many people came into the system. as i mentioned yesterday, this is absolutely untrue. no new veteran would be added into v.a. health care until the v.a. had the infrastructure to accommodate those new veterans. so we're now opening the door for millions of new veterans. not true. and as currently the case, those with service-connected disabilities would continue to get the highest priority service as they currently do, and which, in my view, should always be the case. those who were injured in war
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are the top priority, and those must -- folks must always be the top priority. and that is certainly the case in this legislation. and then last but not least, there is the objection that we are going to be dealing with in about 45 minutes, the vote that we'll be having, and that is that some of my colleagues basically say that, senator sanders, this bill is just too expensive, and we just can't afford to pass it. the bill costs $21 billion, and that's a lot of money, i don't deny it, and that's just too much money and we cannot afford to pass this bill which helps millions of veterans. now i want to respond to that point in two ways. first, i want to address it from
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an inside-the-beltway more technical perspective. and then i want to talk to the american people about the cost of war and what we can afford and what we cannot afford. mr. president, in terms of the funding of this bill, the congressional budget office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper, has estimated that mandatory spending in this bill will total $2.88 billion over the next ten years. $2.88 billion. all of this mandatory spending is completely offset. let me repeat that. all of this mandatory spending is completely offset not by o.c.o. funds, but through more than $4.2 billion in actual savings on the programs within the jurisdiction of the senate
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veterans' affairs committee. as a result, c.b.o. has determined that overall mandatory spending in this bill will be reduced -- will be reduced by more than $1.3 billion. that's what the c.b.o. says. mr. president, in addition, this bill authorizes $18.3 billion in discretionary spending. we have $4.2 billion in mandatory, more than offset, and then we have $18.3 billion in discretionary spending over the next five years. mr. president, as you well know, there is no rule in the senate that an authorization of funding has to be offset, and that's what the veterans' committee is. we are an authorizing committee. we're not an appropriations committee. in essence, the discretionary spending provisions in this
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legislation are just recommendations on how much additional funding we believe is needed for our nation's veterans. it will be up to future legislation in the appropriations committee, as is always the case, to approve or disapprove of these recommendations. in other words, the veterans' committee, an authorizing committee, has made a recommendation. the final word, as is always the case, when we spend money rests when the appropriations committee. -- rests with the appropriations committee. mr. president, the discretionary spending authorized under this bill is, in fact, paid for by using savings from winding down the wars in iraq and
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afghanistan, otherwise known as the o.c.o. fund. let me say a word again. these are recommendations. the appropriations committee has the final word. c.b.o. estimates that spending for overseas contingency operations will total a little over $1 trillion over the next decade. spending as a result of this legislation to improve the lives of millions of our veterans will be less than 2% of that trillion dollars. so anybody, as has been the case, who comes down to the floor and says this bill is going to take u.a.e. awa away fe needs of our men and women in afghanistan or elsewhere, that is simply inaccurate. $1 trillion is what is in the fund for the next ten years. we spend less than $20 billion of that fund. now, some people say, well,
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yeah, that's fine, but o.c.o. funds, you know, it just has to go into ammunition, it has to go into planes, it has to go into tanks. that's where it goes. that is not quite the case. let me give you an example of how we have spent in the past overseas contin yency operations -- contingency operations funds. since 2005, the defense department has used o.c.o. funding for child care centers, for hospitals, for traumatic brain injury research, orthopedic equipment, hospitals, and schools. in 2010, $50 million of o.c.o. funds were used for the guam improvement enterprise fund. well, to my mind, if we can use money for the guam improvement enterprise fund -- and i don't know much about that -- i do believe that we should be able to use some of the o.c.o. funds to protect the needs of men and
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women who made enormous sacrifices defending our country. last year o.c.o. funds were allocated to a number of countries around the world -- egypt, jordan, kazakhstan, kenya, lebanon, somalia, south sudan and many, many other countries. this year $218 million in o.c.o. funding is being used for the tricare health care program. in other words, mr. president, we are using a tiny percentage -- less than 2% of the funds in the o.c.o. fund -- to protect veterans, and we have seen over the years o.c.o. funding used in a whole lot of other areas. and i happen to believe that when we are trying to do with o.c.o. funds falls well within the definition of what that fund is supposed to be used for. if we are supposed to be using that fund for military purposes, then you take care of the military personnel who served
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our country. totally legitimate, totally consistent. mr. president, let me -- that's kind of a technical inside-the-beltway explanation of why i think the funding mechanism that we have chos chon and the approach we have taken is legitimate. let me get to the far more important reason as to why this bill should be passed and why it should be paid for. and that is, very simply, that this bill in a small way attempts to pay back and help veterans and their families for the enormous sacrifices that they have made for this country, sacrifices which, in the deepest
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sense, can never, ever be fully paid back. and this is what this bill does. this bill tells members of congress that if on memorial day or veterans day when they go out and meet with veterans and their families, that if a member of congress, a member of the senate bumps into a young veteran who is in a wheelchair, who because of a war-related injury is unable to have a baby and start a family that he or she wanted to do -- some of those injuries may be final cord, some may have taken place in the genital region -- but for whatever reason, we have over 2,000 veterans in this country today who are unable to naturally have babies, and many of them want families. if a member of the senate wants
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to look that veteran in the eye and say to him or her that you think we cannot afford to help that individual who sacrificed so much for this country have a family, well, you go do that. you tell that individual that you think we cannot afford to help him or her. but when you do that, i hope you will also tell him why you voted to give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top 2%, at a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, virtually all of my republican colleagues thought it was appropriate to provide huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. so when you speak to that young veteran who can no longer have a
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child and you're going to explain why we can't afford to help that family, tell them that it was okay to vote for tax breaks for the koch brothers or the walton fathers but you didn't have enough money to help them start a family. if you as senator see a 70-year-old woman or 75-year-old woman pushing a wheelchair for a veteran who lost his legs in vietnam, tell that woman -- have the courage, have the honesty to tell that woman that we cannot extend the caregiver benefits to her that we have, quite appropriately, for the post-9/11 veterans. tell that woman, who may be taking care of that disabled vet seven days a week, 24 hours a
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day, who lives under enormous stress that we don't have the resources to help her with a modest stipend, we don't have the resources as the united states government to maybe have a nurse come in once a week to relieve her, we don't have the resources to give her some technical help for herself, for her husband; explain to her that we cannot afford to do that. but then, in the same breath, if you please, explain how you can support a situation where one out of four corporations in this country does not pay a nickel in federal income taxes. okay for general electric, some of the largest corporations of the world in a given year, not to pay a penny in federal income tax. but we somehow don't have the money to give a little bit of
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help to 70-, 75-year-old wives who are working 24/7 to give support to their loved ones. i say to my fellow senators, if you happen to meet a veteran who's trying to get by on $28,000, $30,000, $38,000 a year, and you notice that the teeth in his mouth are rotting, if you notice that that person may not have health insurance, one of the millions of veterans in this country who has no health insurance, i want you to go up to that veteran and have the courage, the honesty, to tell them that you believe that the united states of america does not have the money to take care of his needs, to get him
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v.a. health care, to help him fix his teeth, but explain to him why you may have voted for more than $100 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest .3% because you think we should repeal the estate tax that only goes -- only applies -- to the wealthiest .3%, the wealthiest of the wealthy. you are prepared to vote -- virtually all republicans are -- to give millionaires and billionaire families, the wealthiest of the wealthy, the top .3%, $100 billion in tax breaks, but we are not prepared, we supposedly don't have the money to get v.a. health care for somebody making $28,000, $30,000, or dental care for somebody whose teeth are rotting in his mowjts.
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-- in his mouth. you go explain that. have the honesty. yeah, tax breaks for millionaires, but we don't have the money to get you health care. and i want you to explain to a young woman who left the military, maybe broken in spirit, because she was raped or sexually assaulted while in the military, tell her that america doesn't have the resources to get her through the v.a. the proper care that she needs to get her life back together after her sexual assault. tell her that. and if you happen to meet a young man who is eligible for the post-9/11 g.i. bill who today cannot afford to go to college where he lives because he isn't eligible for in-state tuition there and there's a gap between what the g.i. education bill pays and what is required in the state that he's living of $10,000, can't afford it, can't
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go to college, explain to him that you don't have the money to help him. and if you bump into an older veteran -- you've heard some discussion in the last couple of days that the v.a. lacks adequate health care facilities, we don't have enough around the country. well, this legislation that we're voting on right now, that in fact was already passed in the house, provides for the v.a. to enter into leases for 27 medical facilities all across this country, in 18 different states. tell him -- tell that 70-year-old veteran or the 80-year-old veteran who wants access to primary health care near where he lives that we do not have the resources to provide that primary care, but we can spend billions of dollars
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rebuilding the infrastructure in afghanistan where most of that money is stolen by a corrupt leadership . and maybe, colleagues, one of you will see a young veteran, one of hunt of thousand hundredf veterans of iraq and afghanistan who are dealing with ptsd or traumatic brain injury, or maybe it is a young man who has come back and just can't find a job in this very, very tough economy. and go up to him and say, yeah, tax breaks for the rich are great. corporations not paying taxes -- that's okay. but i don't believe that we should be providing help to you. so the bottom line, mr. president, is what we believe in. it's not the speeches that we
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give on memorial day and an veterans day. i know my colleagues give great speeches. the question is and the more important issue is, not your fine rhetoric, but are you prepared to votes for programs that help human beings in need? speeches are great. but action is better and far more important. so, mr. president, this is about who we are as a people. it is about what our priorities are. and in my view, at the very top of our priority list has got to be to protect and defend those people who have protected and defended us, those people who have given much, much more than we can ever repay. those gold star wives right now who want to go to college, and we allow that in this bill.
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they lost their husband. they're trying to take care of their kids. they want a new shot at life. they need a college education. we say you should have that. i don't think that's asking too much. so enough of the rhetoric, enough of the speeches, enough about how everybody loves the veterans. now is the time for action. and i implore all of my colleagues to overcome this vote, to vote -- to give us the votes that we need to go forward to protect those who have protected us. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: i ask for myself, and senator ayotte to engage in
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a colloquy for about 20 minutes here. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. graham: thank you very much. i think my colleagues will be here in a moment. what we will do is i'll go ahead and start. thank you, mr. president, for recognizing me. i see senator mccain coming. basically the time has come, colleagues, for us to as a body provide some oversight that's missing when it comes to death of four americans at the benghazi consulate on september 11, two thousand -- how many years ago has it been now? 12. i'll trial not to get e-- i'll try not to get emotional. the point is all of us appreciate those who put themselves in harm's way in the state department and the
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military. when bad things happen that can cost one their life, that's sometimes just the consequence of service. but when the system breaks down and there's utter, complete failure and nothing responsible happens to those who allowed the failure, and when we really don't know the truth about why the system's failed, then they have died in a fashion that's unacceptable. so i am urging my colleagues, the democratic leader, to form a joint select committee of the relevant committees, the defense, armed services committee, the intel committee, foreign relations committee, and any other committee that's relevant to get to the bottom of what happened in benghazi. i have come to conclude that
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this issue is not going away. it will not die out because four americans lost their lives. and we have compiled an event time line that i think does the following: the story told by susan rice and the president himself shortly after the attack on 16 september and for a couple of weeks later is absolutely collapsed. it is not credible. it is a fabrication. it was a manipulation of the intel seven weeks before an election. and i think it is abundantly clear that the information coming from libya never suggested there was a protest, identified this as a terrorist attack from the very beginning. and on 16 september, five days after the attack, the u.n.
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ambassador, susan rice, assured the nation that the consulate was subsubstantially, significantly and strongly secured. there's absolutely in the talking points about that. clearly that was not the case. why did she say that? her story about a protest caused by a video being the most likely cause of the attack is not based on any facts or any reporting from libya. and we will walk through the time line. but the head of the c.i.a. in libya on 15 september sent a message, an e-mail by cable to the number-two, mike morell in the c.i.a. in washington, saying this was not, not a protest that escalated into an attack. that story line about a protest
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was misleading. it was false. it was politically motivated, in my view. and the number two at the c.i.a., mike morell's testimony before the house and the senate is highly suspect. he testified, i think, november 14 or 15th of 2012 to the senate and house intelligence committee, and there was one episode where mr. clapper, director of national intelligence, said he did not know who changed the famous talking points. the talking points that originally identified al qaeda as being involved identified this as a terrorist attack that were completely changed into the protest story line, not mentioning al qaeda at all. mike morell in may of 2013 admitted to changing the talking points, but when clapper said we don't know who changed the
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talking points, mike morell was sitting right by him and never said a word. about ten days later susan rice asked to meet with myself, senator mccain, and senator ayotte to explain her side of the story. i think this was november 24 or 25th. can't remember the date. but mike morell accompanying her, and we had a meeting in the classified portion of the capitol, the secure portion of the capitol. and one of the first questions i asked mr. morell, who changed the talking points? he said we believe the f.b.i. changed the talking points. senator mccain asked him why did the c.i.a. not know about the contents of the f.b.i. interviews of the survivors on the 15th, 16th and 17th of september? why didn't the c.i.a. pick up the phone and call the f.b.i. agents interviewing the benghazi
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survivors in germany on the 15th, 16th and 17th of september, days after the attack. and he said -- mike morell -- the f.b.i. basically would not share that information because it is an ongoing criminal investigation. my mouth dropped. when the meeting was over, i ran back to my office. i called the f.b.i. and reported to them that the number two, the acting director at that time, mike morell, claimed that your agency changed the talking points deleting all references to terrorism and al qaeda. they went ballistic. they also denied that their agents ever withheld information from the c.i.a. because it was an ongoing criminal investigation. the f.b.i. literally went ballistic on the phone. hours later we got a call from the c.i.a. saying the director tor, acting director ms. faulk,
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we may have changed the talking points, about we don't know why. in light of this, it is now time for a joint select committee to be formed. and how can you get to the bottom of the truth of what happened in benghazi if no one has ever talked to susan rice about why she said what she said. and now is the time to recall mike morell, to ask him questions about the validity of his testimony, the accuracy of his testimony to congress. there are a lot of people who think this is no big deal apparently, particularly in the congress on the other side. there are a lot of americans who feel like their government has not been straightforward and honest with them about what happened at benghazi. the role of the congress is to provide oversight. and i will congress clued with
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this thought. -- i will conclude with this point. when the war in iraq was going poorly, when guantanamo bay tactics came exposed and they were outside of our values, senator mccain and myself joined with democrats to get to the bottom of it. after 9/11, the bush administration originally did not want the 9/11 commission to be formed. senator mccain and senator lieberman led the charge. we're doing no more now than we did then. we're partners. so i cannot say to any family member or anyone whob served in our -- anyone who served in our nation in harm's way that we know the truth about what happened in benghazi at this stage. i can say this, we know what was told to us as a nation is not holding water. and we know that people have manipulated the facts seven weeks before an election. during the attack, i am still not comfortable with the fact that nobody could provide help
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for these people for over nine hours. before the attack not one person who allowed the security to deteriorate to the point that it became a death trap in benghazi, the consulate itself became a death trap, not one person has been fired. that is unacceptable. so with that, i will turn it over to my colleague, senator mccain. mr. mccain: mr. president? mr. graham: and eventually senator ayotte. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent to engage in colloquy with the senator from south carolina and the senator from new hampshire who is here on the floor. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: i think my colleague from south carolina laid out many of the salient facts according to how they transpired and didn't transpire. and i'd like to go back a bit to last sunday -- go forward a bit to last sunday where on "meet the press" ambassador rice was
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asked by david gregory, quote, we haven't seen -- when you were last here ambassador rice it was an eventful morning and the horrible attack on our compound there. we haven't seen you in a while. as you look back aopb your involvement in a while, do you have any regrets? david, no. what i said to you that morning and what i did every day since was to share the best information we had at that time. the senator from south carolina has just outlined the fact that the information they had at the time was drastically different from that as articulated that sunday morning following the tack on our he can about -- our embassy and the death of four great americans. it was not the information she had at the time. then she says that information turned out in some respects not to be 100% correct. but the notion that i or somehow i or anybody else in the administration misled the american people is patently
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false. the american people were misled. they were misled because, she said back right after the attack on "face the nation" best information we have to date. i quote from her statement back then on the few days after the attack. based on the best information, what our assessment is the what began spontaneously in benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in cairo where, of course, as you know there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. we know now for sure and we knew then before ambassador rice went on that sunday show that it was not. because as the senator from south carolina just pointed out,
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the station chief sent a message immediately following saying this was not -- repeat -- not a spontaneous demonstration. i will submit that for the record. so somehow we have ambassador rice saying that this was a hateful video that sparked this demonstration. it says whether they were al qaeda affiliates, whether they were libyan based extremists is one of the things we have to determine. but again, she said, sparked by this hateful video. there was no involvement of the hateful video. and i hate to quote myself but i was on that same program and immediately after she spoke, i said -- and i quote -- "bob, most people don't bring rocket propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration. this was an act of terror. for anyone to disagree with the fundamental fact i think is
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really ignore the fact. we now have facts that she was absolutely wrong. of course the question also remains what in the world was susan rice doing speaking that morning? what was she doing there? she had nothing to do with it. she was ambassador to the united nations. and secretary clinton was, quote, exhausted i believe was the rationale given why she wasn't on every sunday morning show. so the fact is that we knew at the time -- susan rice said -- and this is what it really was all about. it was all about a president deption campaign -- presidential campaign and the narrative that bin laden is dead, al qaeda is on the run. because then susan rice, in response to bob schieffer, said, "president obama said when he was running for president that he would refocus our efforts and attentions on al qaeda." and then she said, get this, "we've decimated al qaeda.
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bin laden is gone. he also said we would end the war in iraq responsibly. we've done that. close quote. is there anybody here who thinks that the war in iraq has been ended responsibly? "he has protected civilians in libya and qadhafi is gone." so, obviously, we have not decimated al qaeda. al qaeda is not on the run. in fact, al qaeda is increasing everywhere across the middle east and north africa. and anybody who believes that when the black flags of al qaeda are flying over the city of fallujah, where 96 brave american marines and soldiers died and 600 wounded, that things are -- were ended -- quote -- "in iraq responsibly" obviously that is not the case. so i think we have to really understand the timing of all
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this. it was all part of a presidential campaign. the president of the united states in debate with mitt romney said, oh, i called it an being a of terror. he didn't call it an act of terror. he didn't. in fact, ten days later at the u.n. he was still talking about hateful videos that sparked spontaneous demonstrations. the american people were badly misled. and i would yield to my colleague from -- mr. graham: if the senator from new hampshire could walk us through maybe some of the reasons we now know that the storyline of a stro a protest cy a video didn't hold water. ms. ayotte: i thank my colleagues for everything that they have done on this important issue and to get to the truth. but, frankly, i'll quote the senator from arizona.
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last whndz he was asked what ambassador susan rice said on "meet the press," because i agree with his sentiment -- i'm speechless. i'm speechless because when ambassador rice was asked on "meet the press," do you have any regrets about what you said on every single sunday show on september 16 of 2012, she said she didn't have any regrets and she said "what i said to you that morning and what i did every day since is to share every bit of information that we had. the information i provided to you was what we had at the moment." well, actually it's not the full picture and not the information they had at the moment. the fact that she had no regrets about rye misleading the american people is deeply troubling. because what the administration knew at the time, we know that immediately after you heard about the attacks, general
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carter hamm who was the commander of u.s. africom at the time told the secretary of defense, secretary pa panetta, t this was a terrorist attack and in fact secretary panetta testified before the armed services committee, as did the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, chairman dempsey, that they knew at the time that it was a terrorist attack. but, apparently, when ambassador rice went on to tell the story about this being the result of a hateful and heinous video and protests that started in cairo, she missed that testimony from -- this is incredibly important information held by key security leaders in our government. we also know that on september 12 -- this is four days before she appeared on the sunday shows -- the day after the attacks, according to testimony given before the house oversight and government reform committee last may, that beth jones, who was
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then acting-assistant secretary of state for near east affairs, sent an e-mail -- she sent an e-mail on behalf of our government to the libyan ambassador in washington, d.c., that read the folting: "the group that conducted the attacks, ansar al-sharia is affiliated with islamic terrorists. "quags this is four days before ambassador rice got all the sunday shows and says that this was -- it was really a response to a hateful and ow offensive video, which was not the case. let's go further. this wasn't the best information they had at the time. and this raises questions as well about the role about mike morell, who at the time was the deputy c.i.a. director, because we know -- i was part of the meeting with certainly mike morell and ambassador rice at the time. one of the things i learned in that briefing also made me very
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troubled by the representations she made on those sunday shows, including the fact that she has no regrets, apparently, that they -- claiming that they had the best information at the time. one of the things that goes out is called the daily intelligence briefing or the presidential daily brief. and in fact ambassador rice had a very important position in our government at the time. i still wonder why she was the person that was sent out on every sunday show with regard to the attacks on our consulate in benghazi. but the daily intelligence briefing at the time actually contained references to the potential involvement of al qaeda in these attacks. yet somehow when she went on the sung day shows, she felt that she could make the statement that al qaeda has been decimated and to blame the attacks on our consulate on this hateful video, further contradicting the information -- the presiding officer: the senator's 20 minutes have
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expired. ms. ayotte: could we ask for one minute to wrap up, if that's okay? mr. graham: you want to wrap up and i'll make a motion here. the presiding officer: is there objection? with no ofntle. ms. ayotte: we're speechless about what she said last sunday. we need to have her testimony before the congress to get to the bottom of why these misrepresentations were made. mr. morell needs to be brought before the congress and ultimately we need a select committee. and i would defer to my colleague from south carolina to wrap up. mr. graham: mr. president, i think now is the time for us to move forward to set the stage for the vote. is that correct? thank you. well, i will -- wurntio one, aso senator burr's amendment, it takes care of veterans similar
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to what senator sanders is proposing. it pays for it i any i think ine responsible way. but unlike senator san disers proposal, we have an additional element in senator burr's amendment that not only takes care of veterans but it deals with the national security imperative, thu this iran sancts legislation, 59 cosporks 17 democrats, that would reimpose sanctions at the end of the six-month negotiating period if we do not have an acceptable outcome regarding the iranian nuclear program, we would need to dismantle the reactor, and stop enrichment. that is the genome o goal of thn sanctions legislation. i am very pleased that senator burr would bring that before the body. i am urging my colleagues to allow us to vote on iran
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sanctions. the sanctions are literally crumbling. the presiding officer: all of the republican time has expired. mr. graham: okay. with that, i understand that senator burr and others on our side have filed an amendment which would impose additional sanctions against the government of iran. if it violates the interim agreement with the united states. i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending motion so that i may offer amendment number 27526782. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. sanders: mr. president, reserving the right to object. i do find it interesting that in the midst of this important debate about the needs of our veterans, my republican colleagues are on the floor and have nothing to say, nothing to say about veterans. this bill is not about benghazi. this veterans bill is not about iran sanctions. it is not about hillary clinton. it is about protecting the needs of our veterans. so senator burr's bill does not go anywhere near as far as we
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need to go in terms of veterans issues. it brings the iran sanctions issues into a debate where it should not be brought into. i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. graham: i'd ask a minute -- the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: thank you. in addition to the burr amendment 2752, therer many amendments on our side of the aisle waiting in the queue to be offered. further parliamentary inquiry. is it correct that no senator is protectived to offer an amendment to this bill while the majority leader's amendments and motions are pending? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. graham: okay. in addition to the burr amendment 2752, there are many amendments on our side of the aisle waiting in the queue to be offered. further parliamentary inquiry: if a motion to table the reid motion to commit is successful, would there be an opportunity to offer a motion to commit the bill to the veterans' committee to be reported back as fully amendable bill with the iran sanctions language included? the presiding officer: if the
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motion to table is agreed to there would be an opportunity for a senator to offer another motion to recommit with instructions to which the senator's amendment could be offered. mr. graham: mr. president, in order to offer amendment number 2752, the iran sanctions amendment, i move to table the pending reid motion to commit and i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. the clerk will call the roll. mr. graham: thank you, mr. president. vote:
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